'Mini brain' in spinal cord helps us balance.
ISLAMABAD -- US researchers have discovered a "mini brain" hidden in our spinal cord that helps us remain balanced while maneuvering our way through crowd or walking across an icy parking lot in winter so that we do not slip and fall.
Such a task happens unconsciously, thanks to a cluster of neurons in our spinal cord that integrate sensory information and make the necessary adjustments to our muscles, Science Daily reported.
"When we stand and walk, touch sensors on the soles of our feet detect subtle changes in pressure and movement. These sensors send signals to our spinal cord and then to the brain," explained Martyn Goulding, professor from the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, a Californiabased independent scientific research institute.
"The study opens what was essentially a black box, as of until now, we did not know how these signals are encoded or processed in the spinal cord," he added.
Every millisecond, multiple streams of information, including signals from the light touch transmission pathway that Goulding's team has identified, flow into the brain.
Using cuttingedge imaging techniques, they traced nerve fibres that carry signals from the touch sensors in the feet to their connections in the spinal cord.
They found that these sensory fibres wire together in the spinal cord with another group of neurons known as RORI neurons.
The RORI neurons, in turn, connect with neurons in the motor region of brain, suggesting they might serve as a critical link between the brain and the feet.